Saturday, April 15, 2017

On the Go to Manado - Part One: Singapore



In talking with other expats and from my own feelings, I’ve come to believe we’ve all got a ‘second country’: that one place outside your own native land where you feel most at home. Whether that country is determined by fate and circumstance or if it’s got something to do with temperament and compatibility, I’m not sure. I do know that for me, that second country is Indonesia.

Over the last two and a half years, I had been to Indonesia three times. I left for my fourth visit this last Tuesday, the 11th, and I sit here now writing on my fifth day out of the three week journey. My destination: Manado – the economic and political capital of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. 

If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. It doesn’t make the news. It’s not well known by tourists. And other than the remarkable SCUBA and snorkeling to be had, it’s attractions are limited.

Still, I’ve wanted to visit Manado ever since I was told about it 25 years ago when I lived in Java. It seemed enticingly remote, yet still accessible. Culturally, it’s a mix of Malay, Dutch, Spanish and now more mainstream Indonesian influences. All this is laid over the local culture, a group of tribes collectively known as the Minahasa. Lastly, it didn’t hurt that Manadoese women are thought of as some of the most beautiful in the world. On top of that, me, I like a nice, quiet road, some interesting people to talk to and some dramatic geography. Manado is packed full of all of those.

Distance wise, Yangon and Manado are about as far apart as Seattle and Cuba, so I couldn’t get there all in one go.  Instead, I had to layover in Singapore.  Now, I had never been to Singapore before, at least, not outside the airport, so I was looking forward to this pre-Indonesian pit stop.

The iconic Merlion in front of the Singaporean skyline
Of course, I’d heard all about Singapore and its draconian laws and strict culture before. Spitting on the sidewalk will get you 4 lashes of the cane. Chewing gum is forbidden by law. Not flushing a public toilet is a hefty fine (who’s reporting that?). I’d heard of the clean streets and how developed it was. Truth be told, although remarkable in many ways, Singapore is still a Southeast Asian city. It has its rough edges. There’s some dirt under that façade.  The immutable natural forces of being an equatorial city never stop grinding. There’s mold and cockroaches. Funny smells and flash flooding when it rains. 

Just a regular, old Singaporean building
That said, I was duly impressed. The skyline and the river walk were breathtaking. Smooth sidewalks and efficient public transportation made getting around a breeze. I enjoyed my afternoon and evening there in the Lion City.
Enjoy the First Episode of “On The Go in Manado”

Yes, that’s the best I could come up with for a title for the next series of videos.  Hey, it rhymes! 


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